How we upgraded our Framework laptop

A year ago, we were wary of Framework’s promises. Today we were able to upgrade our laptop, which we had never done before (except for SSD, Wi-Fi or RAM changes). Step by step we will let you experience the upgrade of our laptop framework.

Framework Laptop // Source: Ulrich Rozier for Frandroid

After unpacking and assembling the laptop framework and then testing the machine, here comes a third chapter: We upgraded our laptop by replacing its motherboard. As a reminder, this PC made a lot of noise when it was released. And for good reason, this system is meant to be upgradeable and durable at the same time, allowing you to buy and replace almost every single component if one stops working properly or if you want to upgrade some rooms.

The Framework Laptop is surprisingly easy to assemble and fun to customize. We also saw that it wasn’t a bad laptop despite its youth. Although there were a few points of criticism in our test, we were won over by its performance, its screen and, above all, its sophisticated design. From now on we pass a second stage with the leveling of the machine. So we received a kit, a new mainboard with an Intel Core i5-1240P processor, which is available for just over 400 euros.

Of course, this is not what ordinary people will do. In fact, we don’t change processors every year… But here it’s an exercise in projection. What if I want to upgrade my laptop a few years after buying it?

Armed with detailed step-by-step online instructions, we set about removing the motherboard that came with our original Framework laptop and replacing it with the upgrade kit. Our original laptop came with a Gen 11 chip, so it’s a generational upgrade.

This upgrade kit was loaned to us by Framework along with the laptop that served as the patient here

We change the motherboard and processor

If a single part breaks, even the screen or keyboard, the case is designed to be opened or disassembled, allowing you to remove and replace just that part. Each component contains a QR code that can be scanned to find information or purchase a charge part. That’s not all, these changes are much easier than with your traditional laptop.

Plus, even the connectors come in the form of modules that plug into slots in the case, allowing you to change which ports you have and where.

In short, here we have equipped ourselves with a T5 Torx screwdriver and that’s it. You don’t need anything else. It’s a screwdriver that comes with the purchase of the machine but can be found anywhere on the web, from 5 to 15 euros on Amazon.

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The T5 Torx is your best friend // Source: Frandroid

If you want to upgrade a laptop’s processor, it’s tied to the motherboard, and almost all laptops make this impossible. In the case of the framework, the 12th generation upgrade kit is required, which is a motherboard with the processor already installed. This motherboard is about half the size of the case, the other part is occupied by the battery.

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The two are identical in terms of mainboard size // Source: Ulrich Rozier for Frandroid

We were sent the kit with the Intel Core i5-1240P. The latter contains a total of 12 cores (four performance cores and eight energy-efficiency cores) with support for up to 16 simultaneous processing threads. The P-Core and E-Core format is inherent to the 12th Gen “Alder Lake” architecture.

Upgrade kits also come with a new top case, making it feel like a new laptop. We haven’t installed it yet, it’s obviously optional here.

Changing the motherboard in a desktop computer is already impressive once you get used to it. It’s even more intimidating for a laptop because everything is more compact and smaller. First of all, the framework guide is very complete, with photos and videos associated with each step. They estimate the uptime at 15 minutes, which is largely doable for a connoisseur, but expect closer to 30 minutes.

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This is what it looks like after opening // Source: Ulrich Rozier for Frandroid

So you have to loosen the five screws under the case, turn the computer over and remove the upper part with the keyboard and touchpad. After unplugging a small tablecloth, we have direct access to the mainboard and the battery. Then you need to remove all connecting cables: webcam, battery, display, speakers and so on. It’s relatively easy, everything is planned to make it easy.

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Framework Laptop // Source: Ulrich Rozier for Frandroid

The audio cable was the most difficult to disconnect due to its shape, a small ribbon cable that fits into an equally small slot, with an ultra-thin flip-tab locking it in place.

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Framework Laptop // Source: Ulrich Rozier for Frandroid

The next step is to remove the Wi-Fi card, RAM and M.2 SSD storage. We restore all of these components to reuse them on the new motherboard. If you want to use it to increase storage space or the amount of RAM, now is the right time. Finally, remember to back up your data from the SSD… Otherwise, you will have trouble accessing it.

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Framework Laptop // Source: Ulrich Rozier for Frandroid

The mainboard is held to the case by five screws, always Torx T5, ​​which are unscrewed. We take care of the tablecloths, and then carefully lift the motherboard. Everything is made easy again. Then we take the new motherboard and repeat each step in reverse order. So we reconnect the battery, the tablecloths, the components… After all this we were able to screw back the last five screws that fix the upper part with the keyboard.

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Framework Laptop // Source: Ulrich Rozier for Frandroid

Ensure that the WLAN module cables are securely fastened again before screwing the bracket back on.

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Framework Laptop // Source: Ulrich Rozier for Frandroid

The framework laptop booted and loaded into Windows 11 with no problems, it just took longer than usual to boot. We had to enter a security key because we had configured our Windows session to protect our data in the event of a major component change.

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Framework Laptop // Source: Ulrich Rozier for Frandroid

The PC immediately recognized the 12th generation processor. Framework also provided a new set of Windows 11 drivers, we had previously downloaded these drivers.

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Framework Laptop // Source: Ulrich Rozier for Frandroid

A major performance upgrade?

As discussed above, going from the 11th gen to the 12th gen isn’t exactly what you envision when buying a Framework laptop. For economic and ecological reasons, we will prefer to wait a few generations.

Framework Laptop 12. Intel - Frandroid - DSC01935
Framework Laptop // Source: Ulrich Rozier for Frandroid

However, it is clear that the 12 generation from Intel represents a significant leap in performance. It remains a laptop processor, which we will compare to the Apple M2 chip in the MacBook Air.

Framework Laptop with Intel Core i5-1240P (12e) Framework laptop with Intel Core i5-1135G7
GeekBench 5 single core 1414 points 1237 points
Geekbench 5 multi core 7541 points 4136 points
Cinebench R23 single core 1479 points 1325 points
Cinebench R23 multi-core 8530 points 5866 points

The performance cores are further supported by the more energy efficient cores. The difference in synthetic benchmarks is noticeable, as you can see above. In practice, this difference will probably not be felt in office automation.

Since the mainboards are identical, we end up with the same weak points as in our laptop framework test. Active cooling becomes too noisy and inefficient. It is the exact opposite of the MacBook Air M2. Overall, it’s a laptop that doesn’t have any major flaws and that we can recommend. As you’ll see, it’s not the best value for money, but unfortunately that comes at the price of scalability.

You would agree that the laptop framework will come into its own if you can upgrade from the 11th gen to say a future 13th or 14th gen motherboard. Therefore, we continue to believe that the laptop and its scalability is a success, and we hope that the framework business is also successful and will continue over time.

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